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Florence, Italy: The TRUTH About Tuscan Cuisine
Tripperia (Tripe House)
For lovers of the Renaissance, Florence, and the Medici.
Marco the Owner
A Templar must choose between the woman he loves and God.
The very word brings to mind images of a pristine countryside, charming villas and sprawling vineyards. Real estate prices in Tuscany are exorbitant and unless you are wealthy or inherit a villa, actually owning one is just a dream for many. The food is delicious, the wine is of high quality (and many are of high price) and anything "Tuscan" simply has the ring of good taste, fine living, and wealth.
Prior to that famous book: Under the Tuscan Sun , Tuscany was not so commercialized. The truth about Tuscany is that it was one of the poorest regions in all of Italy and full of contadini (farmers); good, simple people who worked hard on their land and lived frugally.
In fact, most of pre and post WWII Europe lived with limited means well into the 1980s (and some still do today)! Keeping this in mind, let us now take a look at some of the common foods currently consumed by Tuscans. Oh, and just for the record: Chicken Florentine or any other dish involving spinach and alfredo sauce does NOT exist in Florence. It is a North American invention!
SInce Tuscans (and most Mediterraneans) were poor, almost nothing went to waste when an animal was slaughtered. Creative soups, sausages, stews, and meals were invented so that every bit of the animal could be used up. Ears, snout, cheeks, stomachs, intestines, tongues, tails- all of it was used.
In order to write this article, I visited one of the oldest tripe houses in Florence inside the Mercato Centrale. It has been a trip house since 1887 and has been owned and operated by Marco and Lorella for over twenty years. I took several photos and they kindly explained various ways to cook and serve the following (NOTE: cotto / cotti means cooked and crudo means raw):
1. Trippa: The 1st & 2nd stomach of the cow (they are attacahed). Usually cut into thin strips and served in a savory broth or rich tomato-based sauce. Very tasty.
2. Centopelle: 3rd stomach of the cow. Not so popular in Tuscany, but some locals do eat this. More popular in the Veneto (Northern Italy).
3. Lampredotto: 4th stomach of the cow. Looks like thin, piled roast beef. Served in a savory broth. Very tasty.
4. Musetto: snout of the cow.
5. Budellina: small intestines of the pig.
6. Nervetti: the nerves that extend from the cow's hooves and up its legs.
7. Poppa di Mucca: cow teats- apparently these are HUGE and weight over 20 kilos! They are never served raw, always cooked since they have to be cooked in a special big vat for about 8 hours.
8. Orecchie & Zampini: ears and feet of pig.
9. Testicoli: bull testicles.
10. Cervello: cow brains.
11. Diaframma: diaphragm of the cow- supposedly full of iron and quite tasty if made in a savory broth with potatoes.
Before you turn your nose up at any of the above, give them a try. I'll admit that I have not tried all of these items (and some may never pass my lips), but I was ASSURED that once they are properly chopped, cooked and spiced up- they are delicious. Who knows, you just might like it!
I have had some brave participants on tour that have ventured out of their comfort zone to try something new and were pleasantly surprised. After all, what is the difference if you eat the organ or the flesh of the cow? It's all of matter of culture and what you are used to seeing and eating.
One of the BEST places to try trippa and lampredotto (the two most common organs eaten by local Florentines) is at Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale. Not only do they prepare both dishes in the traditional Tuscan style, they're also delicious and quite cheap! As always, thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist